“I watched him shoot me,” Angela Gabriel says sadly. Nearly one year ago, Angela’s former boyfriend shot her 10 times while she sat in her bathtub on a Wednesday morning. She had just put her children on the bus and was getting ready for work, but it would be no ordinary day. Those gunshots that penetrated her spine and shattered her shoulder would change her life and her children’s lives forever.
That morning, Angela kept calm. She relied on the business principle, “Clarity is power,” throughout the chaos. She spoke calmly to her shooter, to the paramedics, and even chatted with her nurses in the emergency room. “As long as I could keep clear, I was able to get through it. I really believe along with God’s hand being on me, that being able to keep a level head is what kept me alive.”
Angela wants everyone to know that she is still herself, just without the use of her legs. “I still have my mind. It’s just a matter of learning how to adjust and start living a modified life.” Her powerful persona and charismatic presence outshine her paralysis. Her big dreams are to deliver a TED Talk, empower others, and meet Oprah, but right now her goals are transitioning from her chair to the floor so she can play with her two-year-old son, and give him a bath. She goes to work at Keller Williams twice a week and also works from home. She is surrounded by her children, ages 22, 9, 7, and 2. They rely on each other as a team and follow Angela’s adage, “Together we achieve more.” Angela just wants to be a mother to her children. Her newest joy is her widened laundry room door. “I can do the laundry now!” she boasts with a gleam in her eye. Basic tasks like changing her son’s diaper and feeding him have become sources of pride, and driving and cooking are in her near future as well.
The road to living alone with her children after her trauma has not been easy. Angela spent four months in a rehab therapy facility in New Orleans. She is getting stronger and surpassing milestones that once seemed impossible. Her right arm was immobile after taking so many bullets, but now she has total range of motion. “I’m just reclaiming my life. I want to get in the car and go see my son play football, see my daughter dance in The Nutcracker.”
The entire ordeal hasn’t turned her bitter but instead more grateful. “I wonder what I would say to him. Would I say, ‘I’m angry with you’ or ‘Look what you did’? No. I would say, ‘Thank you.’ He’s actually given me an opportunity to touch more people’s lives than I would have before this,” she shares.
One truth Angela repeats is that so many people are good. She had over 300 visitors in the hospital, and many people still reach out to her from all over the country. In her moment of tragedy, Angela was encouraged by the hearts of strangers. In response, she is encouraging and empowering others, specifically those affected by domestic violence.
Angela never thought she would be a survivor of domestic violence. She prides herself on being strong, successful, and confident. But still, her relationship was marked by verbal abuse and consistent arguing. Her former partner had only touched her in anger one time, but he had also threatened her that same night. She shares, “He actually told me he would kill me, but I didn’t leave because I thought I could fix him. It took me awhile to realize that throughout our relationship it wasn’t me. It was him. He was broken, and I couldn’t fix him. At the end of the day, it all boiled down to control. He saw himself losing control of me.” After moving into a home of her own and finding success in real estate, Angela had separated herself from that control, which was a catalyst for his violence.
Angela wants women trapped in domestic abuse to know that they can speak up. “Domestic violence hides really well. Shine the light on it. Don’t be ashamed. Love yourself more than you love your abuser. And, when you get ready to leave, have a plan. I tell everyone that what happened to me wasn’t just about me, but about so many other people. I want everyone to know that regardless of what situation you are in, you don’t have to stay there,” she says.
No matter what you do, do not call Angela Gabriel a victim. She is an overcomer. She proclaims, “My story gets me through the door, but that’s not who I am. I’m not this poor woman who survived domestic violence and now is in a wheelchair. I’ve always been this woman with a voice, but the wheelchair is just the vehicle to get me where I need to be.” ■
Overcome by the Words of Our Testimony
Such a powerful story!! All the best to Angela and her family.